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Strata-G to continue partnership with community arts organizations

Strata-G Communications last year offered more than $75,000 in financial and pro-bono communications services to arts organizations across Cincinnati. That work for organizations including the Clifton Cultural Arts Center and Summerfair, has earned the downtown Cincinnati firm a top spot in the Americans for the Arts' annual "Business Committee for the Arts (BCA) Ten" competition.

The designation is awarded to companies for their "exceptional support of the arts in the United States." Strata-G is the only Cincinnati-based companies on the list, and one of few mid-sized companies named in the award. Other winners include: BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, ConocoPhilips and Devon Energy Corporation.

"We strongly believe in the power of the arts to inspire our employees, not only to enhance their own creative abilities but to play a larger role in enhancing the cultural opportunities available throughout the region," explained managing partner Jeff Eberlein.

To celebrate the award, the 43-person company will soon launch a campaign offering a year of pro-bono services to two arts organizations in the Cincinnati area.

"Being nominated for and winning the BCA 10 award further reinforced in us the role that business can play in supporting area non-profits. We wanted to step up once again and show our gratitude to and support worthy arts organizations," Eberlein said.

Among Strata-G most long standing pro-bono arts relationships is with the Clifton Cultural Arts Center. Strata-G has worked with the non-profit since 2006 by building its initial branding and identity, including designing a logo and web site.  

CCAC was founded in 2004 around saving two historic building the Clifton School and McDonald Estate Carriage house after Cincinnati Public Schools announced it was closing the school. The CCAC turned those facilities, which sit on nine-acres, into an urban campus for arts education and exhibits. The organization contacted Strata-G for its expertise, which kicked off the relationship. Since then, Strata-G has continued provides ongoing Web site maintenance, e-mail campaigns, direct mail and PR.

CCAC executive director Ruth Dickey credits Strata-G with helping the organization stand out and attract supporters.

"As a budding organization in an already vibrant arts community, we needed to partner with a team of creative and insightful professional marketers to share our remarkable story with the community and promote how members of the Greater Cincinnati community can get involved. Strata-G continues to go above and beyond to truly help the CCAC become a reality," Dickey said.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Source: Barbara Flick, Strata-G Communications
Photography by Scott Beseler
You can follow Feoshia on twitter @feoshiawrites

"Scene" set to open in Backstage District

Downtown Cincinnati's "backstage district" will have a new nightlife offering this winter when Scene opens in the vacant space between the former Bootsy's (currently undergoing a renovation/renaming) and Righteous Room, across from the Aronoff Center for the Arts. Scene's grand opening is scheduled for December 3.

Patrick Dye, a 25-year-old former manager at Black Finn, is one of the club's owners. He said he wanted to conjure the feel of a "New York style lounge" with upscale trappings like bottle service and wine lockers, but still remain affordable.

"I'm keeping it very unique but I'm not going overboard," he said.

The bar will not charge a cover, the kitchen will offer $5 small plates and drinks will be priced beneath other high-end establishments downtown, he said.

A construction crew is working seven days a week to finish substantial improvements to the space in time for the grand opening. Brick walls have been exposed, and soon hardwood floors will be installed and custom-made furniture will arrive. The revamped space will have a DJ booth and the bar itself will have a unique design feature that "will blow people away," Dye said, but he said it would remain a surprise.

Dye got his start in the bar business at the age of eighteen as a promoter in Charlotte, N.C. and he said he was managing a bar before he turned 21. He worked in Charlotte for the parent company of BlackFinn, who moved him to Cincinnati three years ago for that bar's opening. Rather than move to another city to manage another bar for the group, he decided to try his hand at ownership of his own bar and add to Cincinnati's growing nightlife scene.

"They were going to transfer me to another city, but I decided to stay here and do it on my own," he said.

The bar will be a bit of a family affair. Dye's mother - a designer in Charlotte, NC - has designed the space and his uncle is his business partner. The two partners plan to open another bar called Scene in Indianapolis in 18 months, Dye said.

Writer: Henry Sweets
Photography by Henry Sweets

County launches sustainable planning workshop series

Sometimes, being "green" is about more than cutting energy consumption or increasing the amount of leftovers that hit the recycling bin. In fact, some of the most powerful aspects of the sustainable/environmentally-friendly movement are focused on another aspect entirely: the revitalization and renewal of existing resources, rather than the environmentally costly demolition and new construction that was once the norm.

This is a fact not lost on Hamilton County, as evidenced by the recently launched seminar series, "Sustainable Hamilton County: Reinventing our Communities." According to the Hamilton County Planning Partnership, the four-event series is designed to "provide factual data and leading research findings, encourage critical thinking, and promote discussion and collaborative action to achieve sustainable development in Hamilton County."

The first session of the series, "The Built Environment: Retrofitting Cities, Communities and Neighborhoods," took place Friday at the Anderson Township Center. Keynote and panel speakers provided a deep bench of expertise on sustainable development: from architects to designers, community planners to experts on aging in the community, the presenters covered many of the topics that arise as Hamilton County works to redefine itself as a sustainable, vibrant community.

Keynote speaker June Williamson discussed strategies for - and successful examples of - suburban communities that broke from the stagnant, high-consumption model of feeders to an urban area to become sustainable communities in their own rights. As a counterpoint, Model Group Vice President of Development and OTR Chamber of Commerce Vice President Bobby Maly discussed the revitalization taking place in that historic Cincinnati neighborhood.

According to Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission Senior Planner Catalina Landivar, the event and the three to follow are intended to bring together disparate parts of the community: academics and members of Cincinnati's educational community, business leaders and local residents. The seminars give these various stakeholders information and a common touchstone around which to discuss how to best move Hamilton County forward.

And with just the first event under its belt, the series can already claim success of sorts; Landivar says planners had to close registration, after a rush of participants booked all the available seats for the event.

The next session in the Sustainable Hamilton County series, "Trends that are Changing our Communities: Housing, Transportation, Health," takes place 8 a.m. to noon Friday, Nov. 19 at Techsolve, 6705 Steger Drive.

The third session, "Fiscal Sustainability and Quality of Life of Our Communities," takes place Friday, Jan. 21. A final follow-up session, "Sustainable Hamilton County: We Can Do It!" is scheduled for March 11, and will give participants the chance to discuss their thoughts about the sessions and suggest what the community needs to do to move forward with a sustainable revitalization plan.

For more information on the Sustainable Hamilton County series, contact Catalina Landivar, Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission Senior Planner, at (513) 946-4455 or catalina.landivar@hamilton-co.org.

Writer: Matt Cunningham
Photo of June Williamson, provided

All aboard Metro's Fun Bus

On December 5, Cincinnati Metro will launch a new route focused on fun. Four brand new 30-foot mini hybrid buses will run a re-routed route 1, now deemed the "One for Fun!" Presented by Hollywood Casino, the vehicles (funded 100% with federal stimulus dollars) will seat approximately 25 people and the route will run from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., every 30 minutes, Monday through Sunday, offering around 54 trips a day.

The re-vamped beat will stop at dozens of Cincinnati's best spots for arts and entertainment. The attractions include the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, Music Hall, Great American Ballpark and Paul Brown Stadium.

"The One for Fun bus will make it even easier for visitors and people in this region to participate in the unique and special arts & culture of our community - the theater, music, dance, galleries, museums, zoo, and more," said Margy Waller, vice president of ArtsWave. "Our arts make the community vibrant and fun. And here at ArtsWave, we're excited that Metro is making it so easy for everyone to come together through the arts," Waller added.

The route replacing the current Rt. 1 Museum Center-Zoo will improve the route for both local residents and visitors to Cincinnati.

"It's going to be such a convenient route for visitors," said Jill Dunne, public affairs manager at Metro. "If someone is staying at a hotel downtown and their spouse is going to a conference or if they're on vacation, they can hop on Route 1 go to the attractions, get back on and get back without having to call a cab or finding other transportation or parking. It will be the best way to hit all these attractions, making it a great asset to the city."

The Metro, which has been serving the Cincinnati area since 1973, has received positive reactions during an open house held in October. The increased frequency on the route, the new busses wrapped in cool, distinctive designs and the added locations hope to attract more riders who haven't had the chance to get familiar with the Metro system. The route will still service the same neighborhoods and hospitals as the previous route did.

Metro has also partnered with the Cincinnati Park Board to have Eden Park and the Krohn Conservatory on the new One for Fun bus route.

"The Krohn Conservatory is free admission to the public, and adding the direct bus service makes it even more accessible for our citizens," said Julie Horne, chief public information officer for Cincinnati Park Board. The Krohn Conservatory partners with the Cincinnati Zoo and area students on research projects; the new service will improve the ability for students to visit for their projects.

The One for Fun will visit 55 unique attractions and the route is around one hour from end to end. Riders can purchase an unlimited monthly pass for $70, buy tokens at the Mercantile Building in Government Square or pay the standard route price of $1.75 in cash with exact change.

For more information, check out the One for Fun route and Cincinnati Metro.

Writer: Rene Brunelle
Image provided.


Spring Grove residents help create $60K development fund, rehab properties

A group of past and present Spring Grove Village residents are invested, literally, in Cincinnati's smallest neighborhood. The Village Development Corporation has been loaned $60,000 from people who want to help the organization continue its ongoing work to rehab homes in the neighborhood.

Village Development Corporation board member and Spring Grove advocate Carl Servizzi took the lead in creating the fund, and contacting potential lenders.

"It's just one of several funding sources for the organization's rehab work.  With the sluggish economy, traditional bank funding has been difficult to come by," said Servizzi. The fund is a win-win for both Spring Grove and the lenders. The Village Development Corporation has a unique source of funding and lenders will be paid back - with a 5 percent interest rate - over the next three years, according to Servizzi. The Village Development Corporation writes a simple, legally binding promissory note with each lender.

"If you had a CD in the bank for $5,000 or $10,000 you'd be getting less than 2 percent because interest because rates are so low. So a five percent simple interest rate made it attractive when I'm selling people on the idea," Servizzi said.

The Village Development Corporation for more than 20 years has invested in the upkeep, maintenance and rehab of its residential and business district. The organization is currently focused exclusively on rehabbing blighted neighborhood properties. The development corporation then sells the property to homeowners. Homes range in price from $50,000 to $100,000. As a result, people who live in Spring Grove Village take real pride in the community and trust the Development Corporation's work. That shows in the enthusiastic response to the new fund, Servizzi said.

"People respond to the Development Corporation and what we have done for the community," he said, estimating the organization has rehabbed and sold about 20 houses in the past 15 years. The homes are targeted toward lower- to moderate-income homeowners, who are looking for an affordable place to live and raise their families. In recent years many rehabbed properties have been foreclosed homes that were abandoned and fell into disrepair.

"The average homeowner stays in a home for seven or eight years then move on. The people who buy these homes generally stay much longer than that," Servizzi added.

Writer: Feoshia Henderson
Photography by Scott Beseler.

Building Value partners with Zoo on deconstruction in Avondale

Construction of a new green space and streetscape in Avondale begins with the deconstruction of three Cincinnati Zoo owned properties in the neighborhood. Thanks to a unique partnership with the Zoo, Building Value, with help from ACT Recycling and Rumpke, will recycle or reuse as much as 85 percent of the material from the houses on the sites. The Zoo selected Building Value to deconstruct the homes at Vine Street and Forest Avenue because of their expertise in salvage and deconstruction work and focus on good green practices. 

All of the salvaged material from the deconstruction will be available for purchase at Building Value's retail store located at 4040 Spring Grove Ave.

"We'll recycle everything that we can that can't be reused - metal to a recycling center, the wood that can't be used will be ground up by Rumpke for mulch and compost. ACT Recycling will handle the concrete foundations, breaking them up for future construction aggregate," according to Lisa Doxsee, communications manager for Building Value.

Building Value's partnership with ACT Recycling and Rumpke began in late 2009 with the goal to increase the amount of building material that can be recycled or reused in a typical demolition project. Since the partnership began, Rumpke has recycled more than 22,000 pounds of wood material and assisted with 23 jobs. The deconstruction process reduces the volume of waste requiring landfill disposal by 19,000 cubic feet, provides enough lumber for 1,485 square feet of affordable housing and the salvage of lumber and panel products avoids the generation of green house gasses equivalent to removing more than six passenger cars from road.

The deconstruction process by the Zoo will take approximately 25 days to complete and employ a crew specially trained by Building Value.  Workers who were previously unemployed, underemployed or economically disadvantaged are trained through Building Value's programs including Youth Build, a national program for high school dropouts who want to gain skills while pursuing their high school diploma.

"To date we've trained close to 100 people through our programs some of whom are now working for companies like Messer Construction, CHC Fabrication and numerous area apprenticeship programs. We can't think of a better way to support the community than to provide people an opportunity to learn new skills that will eventually lead to a new career," says Jerry Janszen, director of Building Value.

Once deconstruction is complete and the land cleared, the project will feature a new green streetscape that will showcase the Avondale community. 

"The new green space benefits residents and builds upon collective projects moving the community to be a great place to live, work, worship and play," said Avondale Community Council President Patricia Milton.

Writer: Henry Sweets
Image provided.

Greenhouse shares office space and resources with non-profits

Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati (ESCC) has partnered with CMC Office Center to launch the Greenhouse, a shared office space and resources for non-profit organizations. ESCC works with nonprofits, schools, faith-based organizations, and government agencies by providing technical assistance and consulting services for success.

"When people start non-profits, they struggle with the basic essentials, like writing grants or administrative support. Having training areas in one location allows the organizations to grow," explained LaDonna Althawadi, marketing representative of CMC Office Center.

The newly renovated and refurbished office space provides many amenities and shared services including free parking, Wi-Fi, a print shop, a post office, an on-site deli, a day care, and a professional management company. Not only does the Greenhouse have exceptional amenities, but it also provides outstanding administrative and bookkeeping services on site. These services will help nonprofits grow together to be a success and also save money with many other expenses. The office space is conveniently located on Reed Hartman Highway with easy access to I-71 and I-275.

Executive Director/CEO, Andy McCreanor, has been actively involved with non-profits and joined the ESCC team in May, noted the limitations nonprofits encounter with locations, services, and budgets. McCreanor said that many non-profits do not have conveniently located office spaces or enough funds to have all of the amenities that Greenhouse will provide.

"Greenhouse is positioned as a shared space and office space with training rooms and conference rooms for nonprofits that are struggling and having to deal with operating expenses. This is an opportunity for them to lower rent in some cases where they might have space but no access to conference rooms or training rooms." McCreanor said.

Rent is planned to be below market rate with training and amenities included for non-profit organizations. CMC Office Center also has many partnerships and sponsors that will help provide items for the office space. Partnerships include ESC, the State of Ohio, University of Cincinnati, Score, and the City of Blue Ash. Staples and Costco are providing office supplies and appliances for training services done by ESC.

"This is more geared towards being beyond the same building. We are making an effort to share space, control expenses and to help the non-profit industry become more sustainable." McCreanor said.

A free grand opening for Greenhouse will take place October 28, 2010 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. providing a tour, refreshments, and a ribbon cutting of the new office space.

Writer: Lisa Ensminger
Photography provided.

Green Homes Summit celebrates second year with new events, residential focus

Area residents, homebuyers and residential homebuilders interested in shrinking their carbon footprints and cutting their energy bills have an opportunity to significantly advance their knowledge of green building this November.

The second annual Green Homes Summit will feature seminars, vendors and home tours aimed at one purpose: making green technology a viable option for residential construction and renovation.

"We've realized we really need to reach the consumer," says Libby Hunter, residential committee chair for the US Green Building Council's Cincinnati chapter. "Probably one of the biggest planks of our mission right now is to educate."

To that end, she says this year's summit is mainly focused on the common questions of homeowners looking to green their existing homes, or consumers thinking about building a new home that incorporates environmentally friendly features. A series of three workshops will give attendees a chance to learn about a wide range of topics, from "Greening Your Old House" by Margo Warminski to "Solar Photovoltaics" by Dave Boezi. A tradeshow, open to both ticket holders and the general public, will feature more than 50 green building product vendors, and keynote speaker Randy Florke, a nationally known real estate and design expert, will give a presentation based on his recently published book, "Recycle, Restore, Repurpose: Create A Beautiful Home."

"It's for professionals and residents, with the bulk of the educational events aimed at residents," says Hunter.

One of this the most unique events at this year's summit is a four-location tour of homes incorporating green technology. Ticket-holding attendees will get the opportunity to visit a LEED Silver-certified home in Hyde Park, homes in Northside's Northwind and Rockford Woods developments, and a condominium in Over-the-Rhine's Belmain building. Contractors and vendors will be on hand to answer attendees' questions about the green technology incorporated into each of these buildings.

"We realized there's such a need to get the word out to the residential public," says Hunter. She and the summit's co-organizers are hopeful the event will take a major step toward educating Cincinnati's homeowners about how they can incorporate a little - or a lot - of green technology into their homes and lives.

The Green Homes Summit is presented by AIA Cincinnati's Congress of Residential Architecture, U.S. Green Building Council's Residential Green Building Committee, AIA Cincinnati's Committee on the Environment and Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati, and scheduled for 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. November 13 at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.

Writer:  Matt Cunningham

Photography by Scott Beseler.

Bridging Broadway opens first of three community engagement sessions

Bridging Broadway, an organization that evolved out of the anticipated development of a downtown casino site, is hosting the first of three community dialogues this Saturday, from 12:30-4pm, at Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine. Saturday's half-day session is designed to gather feedback from residents, businesses and landowners of the historic neighborhoods surrounding Broadway Commons with the goal of contributing to the recommendations ultimately made to the city.

No ordinary design charette, the session includes a guided walking tour of Pendleton developed by University of Cincinnati Professor and Planning Commissioner, Michaele Pride.  Pride says the walking tour, which will take several different routes to ensure all aspects of the study area are observed, is an important part of the process.

"The idea comes from an established body of best practices from the community development industry and is used as a tool for residents and stakeholders together, to inventory the possibilities, problems and opportunities of their neighborhood."

Pride says the tours will concentrate on areas that are within a direct impact zone of the casino development and are the greatest to benefit from - and also to be concerned about - the kinds of new interests and attention that will come with the casino's development.

"Rather than just gathering information from census data and aerial photos and GIF databases, we acknowledge the role of personal, direct experience, directed view and feel as a valid dataset and so we're mining the experience and views and perspectives of the community," Pride adds.

Following the tour participants will discuss their observations and findings in small groups. Jeffrey Stec, Executive Director of Citizens for Civic Renewal, will help to integrate and conclude this part of the process. The second and third dialogues will take place this winter.  Pride, an Over-the-Rhine resident, noted the importance of these early sessions.

"The process helps build community capacity for addressing change," she said.

The next steps will be getting information collected from the dialogues into the hands of decision makers. To that end, Stephen Samuels, Bridging Broadway's founder, says the City of Cincinnati - who funded a substantial portion of the study - is "eagerly awaiting our results."  Bridging Broadway is also a member of the city's Casino Stakeholder Group which meets semi-regularly with the developers who are also getting involved in the dialogues.

"Rock Gaming and Harrah's will participate in the study and meet at two to three critical points throughout the research to provide their feedback," says Samuels.

But getting residents and interested parties to the table early is key to the study's effectiveness, according to Samuels.

"There's no good point to develop a vision and implementation plans for this new destination unless everyone is at the table and has taken a role in shaping this collective future."

The community dialogue is free and open to the public and takes place this Saturday October 23 from 1-4pm at Memorial Hall. You can register here.

Writer: Sean Rhiney
Photography provided.

Know's Jackson Street Market creates community arts connector

To kick off it's thirteenth season, Know Theatre, which gained its permanent performance space in 2006 in Over-the-Rhine, is launching a series of programs geared toward building and retaining Cincinnati's local artist community by simply sharing their space, expertise and resources.

According to Producing Artistic Director Eric Vosmeier, Know hopes to provide a series of programs that can help up and coming individual artists and fledgling arts groups in Cincinnati that don't have their own permanent space. The goal of the initiative - dubbed the Jackson Street Market - is to "provide opportunities to local artistic entrepreneurs, to leverage Know Theatre's resources on their behalf, and to build upon the strengths of our artistic community by creating a space where they can experiment and play with new ideas." 

"All too often," Vosmeier says, "artists leave the Cincinnati area because of the perception that there isn't enough opportunity to keep them here. I don't believe that's true and we're hoping through the implementation of these programs to provide an opportunity for those up and coming individual artists, and emerging arts groups, to be able to stay here and make it on their own." The community space sharing initiative also puts new groups in the heart of Cincinnati's burgeoning 12th Street Art's corridor where the Know is located - an area already bolstered by the presence of Ensemble Theatre, the Art Academy, Artworks, ArtsWave, and the galleries of Main Street.

To kick off the Market, Know will launch a resource sharing website during their 2010-2011 season that will list all available physical resources that the Theatre can share. In addition, the bARTer lab will be an ongoing program led by local dance troupe, Pones Inc., and Know, that seeks to create a forum for multiple artistic disciplines to merge and jointly explore creative change in Cincinnati.

Vosmeier also noted that local artists, including Artemis Exchange founders Chris Wesselman and Paul Lieber, have already agreed to present regular workshops, performances, readings, and events in the Know Theatre's first floor space, the Underground. The Know will also make both of its performance spaces available to newer groups during the weekends that it's not hosting its own performances.

Ultimately, Vosmeier envisions a self-sustaining cooperative theater community which mirrors Cincinnati's self-sustaining music community - a community where people don't feel they have to leave to succeed. Vosmeier adds, "The two communities may not look the same, but the intent is the same."

Writer: Michael Kearns
Photography by Scott Beseler.

CMHA lands $100k for innovative home-ownership program

The Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority has landed a $100,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank.  This American Dream Home-ownership Grant will go to support CMHA's Family Self-Sufficiency Program which works with qualified individuals to purchase their first home.

The grant works by providing a $10,000 down payment for minority home-buyers within CMHA's self-sufficiency program.  The program is designed to move people out of the cycle of poverty and into a more rewarding life that otherwise might have been out of reach without the down payment assistance.

"This grant helps the participants get a leg up on moving toward self-sufficiency," explained Stacia Buck, CMHA's Family Self-Sufficiency Manager.  "We want to help them become economically self-sufficient, and this program allows the participants to do just that."

CMHA officials say this is the first time they have received this grant, and that it is the largest grant received for the program.  To date, the program has assisted approximately 40 families move into homes; 75 percent of which utilized down payment assistance.

To qualify, participants must go through home-ownership training classes before and after they move into the home to make sure the new homeowners understand the costs involved.  Home-buyers must also be approved for a loan before they are eligible for down payment assistance through this program.

"Our participants tend to come from a long line of renters, and the first step toward home-ownership can often be quite daunting," said Buck.  "We're helping them to take that first step, and we're helping a family move into a better situation that they might otherwise not have been able to afford."

The $100,000 grant expires in 2012, but CMHA officials hope that demonstrated success through the Family Self-Sufficiency Program will help them earn this grant award again.

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Image Provided
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @UrbanCincy

Daisy Mae's expands reach with delivery service throughout center city

In an attempt to bring more fresh produce, and expand Findlay Market's reach, Daisy Mae's Market is now delivering throughout much of Cincinnati's center city.

The new business endeavor first started a couple of months ago with their Healthy Breaks program that delivers 30 servings of seasonal fruit to offices in the downtown area for just $20.  But as the program settled in, owners at Daisy Mae's realized that the demand was a bit greater than they originally thought.

"We make a few of the Healthy Breaks deliveries each week, but we learned that many of those customers thought it would be nice to be able to order produce and take it home with them," explained Barb Cooper, marketing director at Daisy Mae's Market.

As a result, Cooper says that the program now brings custom, grocery list-type orders to office workers downtown who want to bring fresh produce home with them and not have to worry about making an additional trip on their way home.  She says that it's all part of their effort to make getting fresh, healthy produce as easy as possible and promoting Findlay Market as a central point for doing so.

"Whatever we're doing, whether it's Healthy Breaks, produce deliveries, or quick-pick produce where you can drive by and pick up your order on Race Street, we're doing it to promote Findlay Market," explained Cooper.  "Findlay Market's historical importance is a critical element of the urban core and we need to do everything to preserve that."

Those who do not take advantage of Daisy Mae's Healthy Breaks program can still have fresh produce delivered to their address as long as it is within the 45202 zip code.  Cooper says that those orders must be at least $15, but that they will deliver the order the next day.

Those interested can place an order online, call (513) 602-5601, or email their order to daisymae@daisymaesmarket.com.  The produce offerings will change on a weekly basis so stay tuned to Daisy Mae's website.  Once the order is placed, Daisy Mae's will then respond with a price and a tentative delivery time.

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Image Provided
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @UrbanCincy

New report discovers faster initial travel times for Ohio's 3C Rail system

A new report released by the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) shows that initial speeds for the proposed 3C Rail Corridor could be faster than first thought.  The ORDC worked with Woodside, an industry leading railroad modeling firm, to produce the report and find new travel efficiencies.

The report included a draft schedule that showed passenger trains traveling the corridor's entire length, 259 miles, in just over five hours.  The five hour travel time equates to average speeds of 50 miles-per-hour.

According to Amtrak, the initial travel speeds are some of the fastest of any recently developed system, and the third fastest since 1980.

"All statewide intercity rail systems in the United States were first introduced at lower speeds and evolved over time to higher speed service," explained Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio.

Trips between Columbus and Cleveland are projected to be even faster and boast average speeds close to 60mph.  This would result in a two hour and twenty minute trip from downtown Columbus to downtown Cleveland - about the same as driving an automobile.

Project officials say that negotiations with the freight railroads are ongoing and could result in even faster speeds.  For now though, Ohioans should expect a system that has top speeds of 79mph and average speeds between 50 and 60mph.

Cincinnati's service would include three daily trains.  Based on service to a proposed Lunken Airport-area station, northbound departures would leave at 6:30am, 12:30pm, and 4pm.  Southbound arrivals would roll into town at 12:01pm, 6:01pm, and 9:31pm.

The 3C Rail Corridor is part of a larger Midwest regional rail plan that connects most major cities throughout the mega-region with one another.  Officials say that the $400 million 3C Corridor could be operational as early as 2012 and create more than 8,000 jobs.

Stay connected to ongoing progress and news on Ohio's 3C Rail Corridor by becoming a fan on Facebook.

Writer: Randy A. Simes
Image Provided
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @UrbanCincy

Taqueria Mercado grows downtown location

Luis Leon grew up in Chicago and lived there with his family for twenty-five years. Luis says, "My father worked in a factory and my mother was a secretary. They were good years, but my mother wanted something else, she had a dream. She wanted to own a restaurant."

So when the family left Chicago and moved to Cincinnati they opened Cancun Mexican Restaurant. A year and half later, the Leon's opened the first of three restaurants bearing the name Taqueria Mercado. The first was in Fairfield, just east of Jungle Jims. The second opened about a year and a half later in Erlanger. That store eventually closed and relocated to its present location in Florence. And then, earlier this year, Leon's family opened the third Taqueria Mercado at 100 E. Eighth Street in the space formerly occupied by Javier's Mexican restaurant.

Asked if he was worried about opening a Mexican Restaurant in a space where another had just failed, Luis smiles and says, "No, not at all."  He then explains, "Many of our customers in Fairfield were from Downtown and they would ask us, all the time, to open a store downtown, so I knew if we opened it people would come."

The restaurant serves as a welcome addition to the downtown dining community. To mollify long time fans of the Fairfield restaurant, and to ensure continuity, Leon brought Alfredo - his favorite cook - with him from Fairfield. Which is not to say that all three stores will be identical.

Taqueria Mercado Downtown will soon offer amenities beyond those at the Florence or Fairfield locations. For instance, Luis has hired long time music promoter Jody Steiner (who held similar responsibilities at The Madison and Stanley's) to book music.

Steiner says live music will start the weekend of October 15 and will eventually feature a myriad of musical styles including Latin, Rock and Roots. Prior to that, physical improvements- including the hanging of acoustic panels- will be undertaken to ensure a pleasant listening environment. 

For Luis and Steiner, both of whom live downtown, the Eighth Street location represents an opportunity to do something special for the ever growing downtown population. As a result, the Downtown restaurant will also be open extended hours, till 11:00 weekdays, 1 am on the weekend, and offer an extended happy hour (11am to 9pm).

Writer: Michael Kearns
Photography by Michael Kearns

District 'A' festival highlights arts district in two neighborhoods

The District A Festival is a day of art, dance, music and food in Kennedy Heights and Pleasant Ridge that highlights those communities' efforts to band together and brand themselves as a destination arts district.

"We are doing a progressive party building on our arts assets, moving from Kennedy Heights in the morning to Pleasant Ridge in the afternoon," District A's board chair Maria Kreppel said. "Then we're having a community art party in the middle."

Kreppel said the festival, this Saturday, mimics a typical Saturday in "District A" where Kennedy Heights' arts organizations offer programming in the morning and restaurants and shops are open in Pleasant Ridge during the afternoon and evening.

At this year's festival, dance classes and art demonstrations begin the day at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center and Arts Innovation Movement (AIM) Cincinnati (formerly Ballet tech.) During the course of the day artists from the neighborhood (of which there are many) will sell works along Montgomery Road while art activities and a book sale will be offered at the Pleasant Ridge Library. Also, AIM will present a dress rehearsal preview of TwiNight, a dance performance premiering next Friday at the Aronoff. The event ends with indoor/outdoor concerts and dinner at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pleasant Ridge. 

A non-profit, all-volunteer organization, District A grew out of a years-old effort in the two neighborhoods to keep their business districts vital despite businesses moving out. 

An arts renaissance in Kennedy Heights was sparked five years ago when community members turned vacant buildings into "arts anchors" like the Kennedy Heights Arts Center and later Ballet Tech Cincinnati (now AIM) and the Green Corner and Giving Garden - a market and garden.

Pleasant Ridge, a district with restaurants, bars and shops, joined the effort when its community councils joined with Kennedy Heights' to establish the "Montgomery Road Arts Collaboration." It became "District A" in 2008 with assistance from design agency LPK. Kreppel said the name reflects the effort to be "not your typical arts district." The organization currently works to foster communication between artists, businesses, building owners and neighbors to promote community and economic growth, Kreppel said.

District A recently helped Pleasant Perk, a coffee shop, through a change in ownership. They have also placed artwork by local artists in vacant commercial spaces at the corner of Montgomery and Ridge roads. Plans for the next big "arts anchor" in Kennedy Heights - the conversion of an abandoned Kroger's supermarket into the Kennedy Heights Cultural Center - will be unveiled at the event.

Information on the festival, including times, can be found here. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Writer: Henry Sweets
Photography by Henry Sweets
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